Then he [Jesus] said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15 TNIV)

I hear the term "spiritual warfare" from various quarters. And I don't always get a consistent read on what people mean by it. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure people aren't very consistent in what they mean by it.

For myself, I'm less concerned about the view some appear to have that we humans are helpless pawns in a great cosmic battle between invisible powers. The spiritual warfare that bothers, seduces, and drags me down is the kind that goes on in full view. Sometimes it is the brassy, sexy tease of entertainers to young people. At other times it is the greedy, selfish feeling that comes over me when I watch a commercial on TV or buy on impulse in the mall.

Recently I read about a group of people who chose to fight conspicuous consumerism with their own consumer covenant.

A troupe of environmental activists on the West Coast questioned the possibility of getting through an entire year without purchasing anything new. That sounds pretty challenging to me. I frankly doubt I could pull it off. But the more that group talked about it, the more enticing the possibility sounded.

At the start of 2006, the ten people who had been talking about it made a pact to give it a try. They called their mutual challenge "The Compact" and bound themselves to a move away from shopping sprees and their allied modern addictions. Other than food, toiletries, underwear, and health-and-safety items, they lived for an entire calendar year and bought practically nothing new.

They discovered how many things were available to them for free at the public library. Several commented on the pleasure they found in repairing things rather than simply running to the store to buy replacements. They took a great deal of delight in sharing things they already had with one another. Paying down credit cards turned out to be an unexpected bonus to their year-long experiment.

It's hard to hear that we are materialistic!
"One of the byproducts of 'The Compact' is that I now have a completely different relationship with the things in my life," a 42-year-old man said. "I appreciate the stuff I have more."

A woman participant reported, "I found that a lot of times there were things I thought I needed that I didn't need that much." Surprise!

There is more said in the Bible generally and in the teachings of Jesus in particular about money and greed than about most of the topics Christians have fought over and churches have divided about. It's simply hard to hear in a culture that is so materialistic. Maybe it's time we started to listen.

By the way, those ten are now in the second year of their experiment. They appear to be enjoying their newfound freedom from compulsive shopping.